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Jeffery Farnol
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 424 pages of information about The Broad Highway.

So we journeyed on through the mysteries of the woods together.

CHAPTER XX

CONCERNING DAEMONS IN GENERAL AND ONE IN PARTICULAR

In certain old books you shall find strange mention of witches, warlocks, succubae, spirits, daemons, and a thousand other powers of darkness, whose pronounced vocation was the plague of poor humanity.  Within these books you may read (if you will) divers wondrous accounts, together with many learned disquisitions upon the same, and most minute and particular descriptions of witch-marks and the like.

Aforetime, when a man committed some great offence against laws human or divine, he was said to be possessed of a daemon—­that is to say, he became the medium and instrument through, and by which, the evil was wrought; thus, when in due season he came to be hanged, tortured, or burned, it was inflicted not so much as a punishment upon him, the man, as to exorcise, once and for all, the devil which possessed him.

In these material, common-sense days, we are wont to smile the superior smile at the dark superstitions and deplorable ignorance of our forefathers; yet life is much the same now as then, the devil goeth up and down in the world, spirits, daemons, and the thousand powers of darkness abide with us still, though to-day they go by different names, for there is no man in this smug, complacent age of ours, but carries within him a power of evil greater or less, according to his intellect.  Scratch off the social veneer, lift but a corner of the very decent cloak of our civilization, and behold! there stands the Primal Man in all his old, wild savagery, and with the devil leering upon his shoulder.  Indeed, to-day as surely as in the dim past, we are all possessed of a devil great or small, weaker or stronger as the case may be; a demon which, though he sometimes seems to slumber, is yet watchful and ever ready to spring up and possess us, to the undoing of ourselves and others.

Thus, as I followed my companion through the wood, I was conscious of a Daemon that ran beside me, leaping and gambolling at my elbow, though I kept my eyes straight before me.  Anon, his clutching fingers were upon my arm, and fain I would have shaken him off, but could not; while, as I watched the swing and grace of the lithe, feminine body before me, from the little foot to the crowning glory of her hair, she seemed a thousand times more beautiful than I had supposed.  And I had saved her tonight—­from what?  There had been the fear of worse than death in her eyes when that step had sounded outside her chamber door.  Hereupon, as I walked, I began to recall much that I had read in the old romances of the gratitude of rescued ladies.

“Truly,” said I to myself, “in olden days a lady well knew how to reward her rescuer!”

“Woman is woman—­the same to-day as then—­try her, try her!” chuckled the Daemon.  And now, as I looked more fully at this Damon, he seemed no daemon at all, but rather, a jovial companion who nodded, and winked, and nudged me slyly with his elbow.  “What are pretty faces for but to be admired?” said he in my ear; “what are slender waists for but to be pressed; and as for a kiss or two in a dark wood, with no one to spy—­they like it, you dog, they like it!”

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